Wednesday, 18 May 2016


Fred Williams (1927–82)
“The Engagement Ring”, 1956
Etching on a zinc plate printed on Whatmans paper with much tone left on the plate in the background, signed by the artist in pencil with the edition number “4–12” and the date “56”. Number 4 in an edition of 12; state i (of ii) (note that in the second state the background is darkened with aquatint rather than plate tone.)
Size: (plate) 15 x 19 cm; (sheet) 22.1 x 15.9 cm
Mollison 88i (reproduced in plate 28)
Condition: very richly inked impression, pencil signed with edition number and in near pristine condition.

I am selling this early print from Williams’ London years for AU$4000 (currently US$2914.10/EUR2582.28/GBP2006.74 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. If you are interested in purchasing this rare original etching—and one that is often reproduced as an exemplary print of Williams’ early days—by one of Australia’s most famous artists, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


If I were to mention that many of Fred Williams’ early etchings (like this one) were executed in a London music hall because the theatre was a good place to keep warm while working on his plates, I suspect that this information would seem irrelevant. Nevertheless, it isn’t. The small size of the plate was chosen because it was portable and its size wouldn’t inconvenience fellow theatre patrons. Moreover, one only has to think of Williams’ later landscapes, where the terrain is portrayed from a bird’s eye view, to understand the affect of Williams’ time in the theatre as he made quick sketches of performers from the lofty heights of the theatre’s Dress Circle or, as in the case of this print, from a worm’s eye view near the Orchestra’s Pit to see what I mean.

What Williams portrays here is most likely an actress in a stage production lightly touched by stage lights. Certainly this is not an everyday scene of a lady reacting to an engagement ring—not that I’m an expert on how everyday women react to engagement rings. Note, for instance, the lady’s grand gesture as she leans her head backwards with a slight turn to her face while delicately holding the ring at her fingertips away from her body. In short, the low angle of view, the strong lighting and the dramatic gesture of the figure are all a part of Williams’ viewpoint in a music hall ... and the need to be warm.



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